Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wednesday Words: The (Completely Accidental) Fault in Our Services

One of the many things I love about storytelling, no matter which medium it is being conveyed through, is that it is a unique experience for each individual. Jane Austen's novels have been read for many many years and by people all around the world, but they manage to say something different to each person. Her books may be over 100 years old, but they were new to me when I was a teenager looking for a story to be lost in, and I got to discover that world for myself in a completely fantastic way - spoiler free.

Books, movies, music, really the arts in general have an incredible ability to always be new to someone because they're constantly being discovered by a new audience or generation. But sometimes, intentionally or unintentionally, parts of that experience are soured by stories being leaked and revealed.

Last week, Barnes & Noble accidentally shipped out preordered copies of John Green's upcoming novel The Fault in our Stars. To say this book is highly anticipated is a bit of an understatement. When he promised to autograph tip-in pages for the entire first printing, the demand was so overwhelming that the first-printing is 150,000 copies plus his publisher moved up the release date from March to January. Things were going relatively smoothly (or at least John was putting on a really great game face for the last few months) until this accidental shipment.

Once these orders were sent out, I can't imagine that there's a whole lot that can be done. It's not like they could all be tracked down and taken back. Needless to say, some people got this book three weeks before the rest of us will and it leads to a big question: to read it or to wait?

Temptation is a powerful force. If I got it early (which, to be clear, I did NOT), I could read it early and finally know this amazing story, but is three weeks really that long to wait? And if I read it early, it's not like I'd be able to talk to anyone about it - I would NEVER want to spoil the reading experience for others. (The "highway overpass spoiler" incident that occurred when Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came out left me disgusted.) So while it would be incredibly tempting to read it early, I think I'd wait instead. I imagine it's like when expecting parents have to decide if they want to know the sex of their unborn child or not - once you know something, you can never un-know it, and in the grand scheme of things, is it really that long to wait?

While it is an unfortunate situation for Penguin, John, and Barnes & Noble to be in, I must say that I've been impressed with how professionally and honestly it has been handled. Were it my book, I'd probably be sobbing that my hard work now seems tarnished in some way, but John has put on a good face. He's addressed his thoughts on his Tumblr as well as on the YouTube channel he and his brother Hank share. Is he devastated? Yes, he says so. But it was just one of those things, an unfortunate accident that happens from time to time, and he and so many others are continuing to work hard to make sure that the reading experiences of others can still be times of exploration, thought, and discovery.

So chin up, John, and may January 10th still be a very special day for you and DFTBA. In the meantime, if you are someone who has not yet read one of Green's novels, check out Looking for Alaska (my review can be found here), An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, Will Grayson Will Grayson (co-authored with David Levithan), and Let it Snow (co-authored with Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle).

John Green's YouTube Vlogbrothers Response:

Comments are welcome, as always.

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